I’m not as big a nerd and fan of Star Wars as my brother is, but I won’t deny that Star Wars is a cool franchise. A weird mixture between a space opera and a space cowboy shooter film with sword fighting and magic and massive battles. There’s a little something for everyone. There’s even a princess, although I’m not quite sure Leia works as a Disney Princess yet. But while the movies are overall well-received, they do have problems. Weirdly though, most of my issues are with Episodes 7 and 8.
I can’t say that they’re bad movies, because, story aside, they do have a lot of good aspects, they’re really well-made movies. But there is something major that bothers me with Episodes 7 and 8.
There’s no world-building or explanation why everyone is there, still doing what they’re doing.
In the original trilogy, you get a basic idea of what everything is. There’s an evil empire and rebels who want everyone to be free. A simple idea to get behind that doesn’t need much world-building. You do have the mystical Jedi stuff, but that’s kinda supposed to be mysterious. This builds up, from a seemingly unstoppable empire fighting the underdogs, to the underdogs slowly rising, falling and eventually blowing up a second Death Star. You don’t see what happens after, you assume things will be better though.
In the prequel trilogy, you get a TON of world-building and you see the events that led to the original trilogy. The prequels (especially the first movie) don’t do the greatest job of showing this (probably too much politics) but there’s something going on there, you have something to reference and you can slowly see how all this came to be. Stupid characters and nonsense side-plots aside, the main world-building issue is probably the timescale that all these things happen. Even if the prequel movies did nothing, they at least show that something happened.
That doesn’t feel like the case in Episodes 7 and 8.
Episode 7 is basically a remake of Episode 5, but with less explanation. Sure, we destroyed the empire but now there’s this new empire, with MORE resources than the old empire had. The Galactic Empire had enough power and control to influence the whole galaxy. The First Order… appeared from nowhere. With enough funds to be able to make a planet-sized Death Star. And enough power to destroy the seven main planets where most of the new Republic were based.
But hang on, there was a whole NEW REPUBLIC THAT WE KNOW NOTHING ABOUT! All we know is that Leia is in charge of some of it and that’s pretty much it! We don’t see how this republic was formed, what it did or whether it even really affected the universe. It was just a thing. That doesn’t seem to be there any more.
You can say the same thing about Episode 8. All we see in Episode 8 is that the rebels are kinda screwed. You find out about a casino place where rich people go but it’s not exactly important or anything. We also have no idea what’s going on with the rest of the universe since the republic got destroyed or whatever. Some stuff happened, but we don’t know what.
Heck, we don’t even know if the First Order rules the same way the Empire did. Or whether the new and now dead Republic was any good. We don’t know anything.
And before you say “There’s books and TV shows and stuff like that!”, the movies are presented as standalone. If I watch the movies, I should know about this stuff, I shouldn’t have to go digging and diving into other media for the meat of the story, an explanation as to WHY all of this is happening. Side media and side movies (like Rogue One and Solo) are there to fill in some gaps and explore other avenues, they should not be your main medium of storytelling.
So you have this weird thing where nothing really seems to matter. The events of Episodes 1-6 mean almost nothing when it comes to Episodes 7-8, aside from the fact that some of the characters are older now. You’re actually torn in two different ways, viewers are told to look at the shiny screen and all the happy nostalgia, but at the same time they’re told “NO, THIS IS ALL NEW AND DIFFERENT NOW!” We end up with this strange disconnect from the rest of the universe.
Almost as if they didn’t want to make a movie in the Star Wars universe. I get doing something new, but you need to have some world-building and some reason to be there, and you also have to have some reasonable continuity. Which Episodes 7 and 8 almost completely lack.